The 700 MHz spectrum band, which is currently in the process of being cleared as a result of the migration from analog to digital television in the Latin America region, is among the most appropriate options to accelerate adoption of mobile broadband services in Latin America, according to a report published recently by 4G Americas. The 700 MHz band, often referred to as the Digital Dividend, has technical features ideal for providing wireless service coverage in rural areas and offers better signal coverage (than higher band spectrum) for inside buildings and homes where most communications take place.
“The 700 MHz band enables efficient coverage and fast data speeds for mobile broadband services in locations that currently have no other Internet access alternatives,” stated José Otero, 4G Americas Director of Latin America and the Caribbean. “These LTE mobile broadband data capabilities provide a huge opportunity for the governments in the region to boost their connectivity programs and increase the number of people that can benefit from e-learning, telemedicine or e-government initiatives.”
The report predicts that the 700 MHz band in the Asia Pacific channeling scheme (APT), otherwise known as band 28, and chosen by a majority of governments in Latin America, will provide significant global economies of scale, thus ensuring variety and ready availability of network equipment and mobile devices. Services are already available on the 700 MHz band in three Latin American countries—Bolivia, Ecuador and Panama—while eight countries in the region have either allocated or are in the process of allocating this band for mobile services.
The 700 MHz band, comprising from 698 MHz to 806 MHz in the Americas region, has better signal propagation than higher frequencies, such as 1700-2100 MHz and 2500 MHz. In other words, it is possible to cover a larger geographical area with fewer cell sites. This enables efficient infrastructure deployment in communities and populations currently lacking access.
Economies of Scale
By 2020, six billion people globally will be covered by mobile broadband networks deployed on 700 MHz. Out of this total, close to four billion people in Asia and Latin America will be covered by networks on 700 MHz (band 28) [Source: APT 700MHz report, Alcatel-Lucent, 2014]. This figure makes the APT channeling on 700 MHz the most widely used band providing the largest economy of scale worldwide.
The study highlights the importance of enabling the use of spectrum for communication service provision immediately after it has been awarded to an operator. To make this possible, it is necessary that the block awarded to the operator be cleared so that it faces no interference from other services on the same band. In the case of 700 MHz, unless it is cleared, quality of service could be impaired, both for mobile communications and television.
Further noted in the report is the importance of coordinating actions along country borders, due to the differences between the United States 700 MHz band plan and the APT plan. Both plans offer excellent propagation and economies of scale. However, the use of different channeling plans on the 700 MHz band might raise interference in areas such as on the border between Mexico (with APT channeling) and the United States (U.S. channeling), or the borders between Bolivia (U.S. channeling) and Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Peru, which have chosen APT channeling.